“I…” sings Tom DeLonge, “wanna fuck a dog in the ass.”
“He wants to fuck a dog in the ass,” sings Mark Hoppus earnestly.
“I wanna fuck a dog. That’s right, kids!”
That is the beginning of the Blink-182 song “Fuck A Dog,” a cheerfully puerile track from their magnificently titled 2001 album Take Off Your Pants And Jacket. It’s a dumb, dumb song. It’s also missing from the track listing on the CD, hidden after a few minutes of silence at the end of the disc.
There were other hidden tracks as well, depending on which of three versions of the disc you bought. There were equally silly songs — “Mother’s Day” begins “Fuckin’ and suckin’ and touchin’, fuckin’ and suckin’ and touchin’”, while “When You Fucked Grandpa” had the working title “When You Fucked Hitler” — and legit songs “Time To Break Up,” “What Went Wrong” and “Don’t Tell Me It’s Over.”
None of these are anywhere to be found on Spotify, iTunes, Deezer, Tidal or Amazon Music. If you want to listen to the song about fucking a dog in the ass without the CD, you have to you go to YouTube and find a copyright-infringing version. (Here’s one!) That’s six songs by a very famous band, simply not available anymore. That’s a lot of material gone.
This is pretty shitty math, and involves disregarding a bunch of EPs and stuff, but Blink currently gets about 13.5 million monthly plays on Spotify, across 10 albums. If you think of six missing songs as constituting half an album, that’s potentially another, what, 652,500 plays straightaway? Spotify famously pays very badly — and Blink-182 are doing just fine financially — but that’ll add up.
Again, some of it is pretty inessential. Three of the six songs involve sex with mothers (in one song Hoppus sings about having sex with his mother, in another he emphasizes that he’s so upset he won’t be doing so today, while in the one about the dog, DeLonge explains that he tried to fuck both your mom and dad — in the ass, of course — but was only able to find the dog). But there are also good, well-liked songs that millions of fans had and listened to that are just… nowhere.
Hidden tracks were a big deal. In the age of the CD, discovering a bonus hidden track was a genuinely exciting thing. Think about how exciting post-credit sequences in movies were before they became completely ubiquitous — passed around by those in the know. While a lot of shitty bands put a lot of shitty material out as hidden tracks, the secretive nature of it all meant there was something exciting about even the most underwhelming of material. You might listen to an album dozens of times before realizing there was another song on there, unheralded on the track listing. Some bands took the idea of hiding it even further, and placed extra music in the pregap of a CD, meaning you had to rewind to before 0:00 to hear it. That would never happen by accident — you’d only be able to hear that bit of music if someone showed you how or you read about it on the (very slow) internet. It didn’t matter if what you ended up hearing was shit, it felt special.
“Growing up as a disciple of nu-metal, hidden tracks were surprisingly common, yet it was still exhilarating when you found one,” says Luke Morton, editor of global heavy music bible Kerrang!. “The final track on Slipknot’s debut springs to mind as one of the cooler examples. After ‘Scissors’ fades out to silence and you think the record is done, you hear the sound of the band chatting amongst themselves — and one vomiting, if I remember correctly — before the super-heavy track ‘Eeyore’ comes in, which has since become a cult live favorite. At the other end of the scale, Limp Bizkit’s Chocolate Starfish album closes with Ben Stiller laughing for far too long. It gets so annoying that you switch the record off. But if you stick out his weird gulp-giggling, there’s hidden music at the end.”
On Spotify, Slipknot’s vomiting is nowhere to be found. In a post-disc era, plenty of bonus grossness, crappy skits and self-satisfied in-jokes that won’t be particularly mourned have vanished, because there’s basically no perfect way to do it.
Leaving several minutes of silence is a real playlist-destroyer. When one of the most appealing things about streaming services is the ability to have music you vaguely enjoy playing all day uninterrupted, lengthy silences are really going to mess with it. Limp Bizkit’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water has a 10-minute closing track on Spotify, just as on the CD — a song, several minutes of Stiller being obnoxious and another song — and while this maintains the secrecy of the bonus material, if it came up on shuffle, that would ruin your fucking run. California band Zebrahead’s 2000 album Playmate of the Year has the same thing — a song, “Get Back,” then a huge swath of nothing followed by some didgeridoo playing and a shitty prank call. It doesn’t feel like a bonus, it feels like a stupid pain in the ass.
If, rather than buried after a lengthy silence, a bonus song is treated as a separate track, it needs a name or it won’t work on Spotify. This sometimes manifests in a way that specifies the song’s previously hidden nature while undermining it. My Chemical Romance’s song “Blood,” which was originally unannounced several minutes after the end of “The Black Parade,” shows up as “Blood — Hidden Track,” very much not hidden. Beck’s Midnite Vultures ends on Spotify with the now-titled “Untitled Track,” originally buried several minutes after “Debra.”
The most popular move seems to be to append the track to the album with no indication it wasn’t always there, which brings its own issues. Nirvana’s Nevermind is a different album now — the CD version ends with the mournful “Something in the Way,” and then 10 minutes of silence later, in comes the monstrous six-minute hidden track “Endless, Nameless.” Kurt Cobain intended it as a surprise, arriving unannounced and scaring the shit out of the listener. On Spotify, it’s just track number 13, part of the album rather than a separate thing. (Meanwhile, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s parody version, buried similarly at the end of his Off The Deep End album, is nowhere to be found.)
Green Day’s Dookie ends on Spotify with the shoddily-recorded jokey ode to masturbation, “All By Myself,” rather than the “proper” closing track, “F.O.D.” and a bit of a wait. Slipknot’s “Eeyore” is right there, with barely any vomiting to be heard. If you’ve come to like these bands via Spotify, that’s just how the album is for you, but it can totally change how an album feels emotionally. Dookie was written to end with the lines “I’m taking pride in telling you to fuck off and die, goodnight,” but it now ends with the drummer doing a baby voice singing about jerking off. Nevermind, as released, ended in a maudlin, downbeat way rather than with chaos. (To use the post-credits scene comparison again, it would change how the whole ending of a movie felt to bring those before the credits. Rather than a big bombastic ending then a bunch of names, a little jokey bit of riffing before the credits would just feel kind of deflating.)
So what’s the answer? Is there one? Is it even a problem?
Probably not, in the grand scheme of things — when technology has put a virtually infinite collection of music in your hands, complaining about what isn’t there feels unnecessary. And the kind of purist who would complain about the altered emotional narrative flow of Nevermind caused by streaming wouldn’t be looking to Spotify for a quality listening experience anyway. Pining for the glory days of the CD, and a better way for the modern world to treat this one silly gimmick people got really into between 1993 and 2001, feels perhaps like a battle not worth fighting.
It’s really funny when Blink-182 sings about fucking the dog in the ass, though.